You can say a lot about Bud Selig over his tenure. You can complain about what he did wrong. You can complain about what he did right. Nonetheless, not one of us would have wanted to trade places with him eleven years ago today.
Deciding whether baseball should return after September 11th….
This year, baseball once again marks the solemn anniversary with flag patches on caps, special lineup cards, base jewels and pregame ceremonies. Once again Selig sets the tone.
“All of us within Major League Baseball made a solemn promise after Sept. 11, 2001: We Shall Not Forget,” Selig said last year. “When I look back on those days once play had resumed, it gives me pride that the national pastime provided fans with some moments of normalcy and joy.”
Selig continued, “I am very proud of the efforts throughout Major League Baseball to remember and to commemorate, and like all Americans, it is my great hope that acts of kindness and service will renew the spirit of unity that resonated in our nation after Sept. 11.”
It is remarkable how our national pastime has become entwined with memories of the post-Sept 11th recovery process. From players visiting with first responders to Shea Stadium being used as a relief center to the outpouring of patriotism and unity (after play resumed), baseball helped our nation begin to cope with its shock, horror and grief. It’s hard to now imagine commemoration the day without it.
It just seems right.
Since September 11, 2001, the Yankees have played “God Bless America” during the 7th inning. Joe Torre, now Major League Baseball’s executive vice president for baseball operations, mused to MLB.com “…when they pan the audience, I look at the youngsters and I get a lump in my throat, because those kids aren’t going to grow up with the same freedoms we did. It’s necessary, but they won’t.”
“The No. 1 [change] is the security,” Torre said. “You go through any airport. Not just airports, but theaters and certain sporting events. I know some people resent it, because we’re used to so much freedom, but people were trying to hurt us on our own soil. It was devastating.”
Ok. I’ll keep my mouth shut the next time Yankee Stadium security makes me turn my iPhone on.
Umpire, and now Senior Arbiter, Joe West questions “Did 9/11 change this country? Yes, absolutely.” He goes on to tell MLB.com, “…every now and then, I think we should all be reminded how important life is. I was lucky enough to get reinstated to my position as an umpire [there was a labor action at the time], and I realize how lucky all Americans are to be part of the greatest country on earth. And I promise that as long as I’m able, Merle Haggard’s words in a song are what I’ll live by: ‘When [they're] running down my country, man, [they're] walking on the fightin’ side of me.’”
Retired centerfielder, Doug Glanville, grew up six miles from the George Washington Bridge. He put the plight of baseball in perspective that faithful day. “So many lost lives and how it shook our entire world,” Glanville told MLB.com. “We were trying to do what we do, which is play baseball. I just remember the conflict in deciding if we should play, when we should play in terms of resuming. Everything was so uncertain and everybody was so fearful about the possibility of what could happen next.”
Was it right to move on?
Glanville continues, “I agreed with the idea that baseball could heal, but we also wanted to make sure if we needed to have some perspective first or just digest it. To respect the lost lives and see what possibly could be next, because we were playing sporting events with thousands of people congregating. That seemed pretty dicey given the possibility of another strike.” In our darkest hour, baseball opted to continued. The players quietly supported charities, visited first responders, but most importantly they played.
We might complain about their paychecks or when they single-handedly destroyed our fantasy baseball teams, still Major League Baseball did something eleven years ago for which I will be eternally grateful. They simply reported to work.
Thank you. I needed to say that.
I guess Doug Glanville describes it best. “So that was a concern, but we also did think it was compelling, the idea of giving people something to enjoy, the American experience, the national pastime.”
Baseball, what could be more American than that?